Theology & Worldview

What Does It Mean to Be “Called” to Missions?

When someone says that they feel called to missions, it’s common in a Christian community for people to automatically think of going overseas as a missionary. Being “called” traditionally seems to indicate a special setting apart for certain Christians, as if it only happens occasionally. Yet, isn’t being called to missions a part of every Christian’s life? What does being “called” even mean? 

Every Christian should practice missions because spreading the gospel can happen in any living situation, whether in another country or the neighborhood across the street. Paul points this out in 1 Corinthians 7:17, reminding believers that, “Nevertheless, each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them. This is the rule I lay down in all churches.” Paul explains here that everyone is called by God, regardless of their environment or circumstances, to perform everything in a God-fearing way.“which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Here, the apostle, a great missionary in his own right, emphasizes that God has called all Christians to work and live their lives for His kingdom. Jesus talks about the starting point of when people become called to missions in Acts 1:8 when he states, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When someone is baptized and accepts the Holy Spirit into their heart, that is the moment when they are called. Therefore, every single Christian is called to missions and God’s purpose for their life.  

Since everyone is called, then there should be a general, biblically-based definition of what being called means. This is found in Matthew 28:19-20, also known as the Great Commission, where Jesus says to his disciples, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Here, Jesus provides a clear definition of what being called means and what the life of a Christian is about, namely spreading the good news of redemption. Christians are supposed to lead people to the church and, in doing so, to Christ. Peter explains the meaning of being called further in 1 Peter 4:10, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” Part of missions and being called is using spiritual gifts to spread the Word. Whether their spiritual gift is hospitality or giving, Christians can use their gifts to invite people in and share the good news with them. When Christians dedicate their lives to bringing people to Christ, they are responding to being called by Jesus and they are living as missionaries.  

However, assuming everyone is “called,” an obvious question is how does each of us understand more specifically how to live that out? How do we discern whether to go to the farthest tribal group or the community down the street? Dr. Robert Ford, a missionary surgeon who spent his career among the poor in southern Africa, once said that for him, the specific call to his work lacked a clear voice telling him distinctly to go work in Africa. Instead, he said his calling was a “growing sense of rightness” about the specific path God paved for him. When each of us seeks God and His purpose above all the other competing choices in our life, perhaps that is when each of us will find the calling that God has ordained for our specific gifts and talents. 

Works Cited

Burden, Aaron. At the Cross. 30 July 2018.  

The ESV Bible. Crossway, 2001, www.esv.org/.

3 Comments

  1. Great job defining what being “called” means, Caroline! We all need to hear this!

  2. Great job Caroline! I was a missionary in Kenya with my family for two and a half years. From experience I know that there is a lot of misunderstanding about the meaning of missions. You did a great job talking about this topic!

  3. Very interesting article. This is something that we all need to hear 🙂